Friday, January 30, 2015

Week Three in the Capitol for the 2015 Session

roylacey
Roy Lacey Office Address
District 29 State Capitol
Committees: P.O. Box 83720
Finance Boise, Idaho 83720-0081
Health & Welfare (208) 332-1406
Transportation rlacey@senate.idaho.gov

The early morning fog continued through most of this third week of the session. I have always thought that the temporary move to Boise was a move to the Sunbelt of Idaho for the winter, but such is not the case this year. I have had to return home to Pocatello to get my sunshine “fix”.

Speaking of coming home, please keep the date of February 14 open for a Town Hall meeting at the City Hall from 10AM to 12N. I know it is Valentine’s Day, but we have had a difficult time finding a day to schedule time for all three of your legislators to be in Pocatello. Please ask for forgiveness from your sweetheart and come visit with us for a short time.

Probably the most visible activity this week has been the “Add the Words” hearings on the House side. There were hours of testimony over about three days. The testimonies from both sides were full of passion as the lines in the sand were quite deep. The overwhelming majority of the testimony was in favor of passing this legislation, however the committee voted along party lines to hold the bill in committee which essentially defeats the “Add the Words” legislation for this year. Bill sponsor Cherie Buckner-Webb very eloquently said “It was important that at long last Idahoans had an opportunity to talk openly and honestly about how they experience life in their communities and issues of housing and job discrimination.” All Republicans on the committee voted to kill this legislation and the Democrats voted to carry it forward.

We had an interesting presentation by the McClure Center for Public Policy Research on a poll they had conducted regarding the adequacy of our highway system. The sample was large enough to be relevant. Some of the data they collected showed that 94% acknowledged that roads and bridges were an essential part of Idaho’s economy and must be maintained and 85% felt that additional funding is necessary to make roads and bridges safer. Also, 53% of those surveyed felt that our roads and bridges should be one of the three top priorities for our legislature. Only 5% felt that at our current rate of maintenance our roads and bridges would be adequate in 10 years. Idaho’s economy is tied to our highway system which includes the feeder roads that connect with the interstates. We need to move forward quickly if this system will be able to handle the level of use into the future.

It was education week in the Joint Appropriation and Finance Committee. We have listened to all the educators express their need for more funding to adequately provide an education that is affordable and sustainable. Education is the key to Idaho’s future. The recommendation for higher education is not very robust as more emphasis has been placed on K-12 by the Governor. However, this only means that more pressure is being placed upon the students in the way of higher tuition if the level of education is to remain the same. President Vailas and the other university presidents did a wonderful job of “selling” their schools hoping for more funding to curtail the financial load the students needed to carry.

Of course, the excitement of listening to the new Superintendent of Public Instruction was tantamount on everyone’s minds this week. She did not disappoint and showed a minimal amount of slides and talked for just a few minutes (unlike her predecessor who talked for an hour or more) to explain her budget, which is not complete. There is little or no guidance for the JFAC committee to base setting a budget and as this is our largest budget and takes a considerable amount of time to compile, she has left us in a very awkward position. I understand that she may want some legislation passed or may be waiting to determine what the Education Committee is doing with the Tiered Licensure or Career Ladder rules, but I have been told that part of these rules have been tabled due to some problems. Just remember that the session cannot sine die until the budgets are approved.

This session has seemed “hurried” to me and as we push forward to an early sine die I just hope that all that is necessary for our schools, our highways and other important matters will not be overlooked or acted upon hastily. Hopefully the voice of reason will prevail and things will be done correctly. I am really looking forward to a better week as we begin February.

The bright spot of this week was having our Chamber, our Mayors and several individuals from Pocatello stop by. I do love visitors, so if you visit Boise, be sure to stop by my office.

Again, thank you for the trust and for the responsibility you have afforded me as your elected Senator. I pledge to do my best for Pocatello and Bannock County as we push through this session. Please contact me with ideas, concerns or just to say hi – rlacey@senate.idaho.gov or 208 332 1406.

Friday, January 23, 2015

2015: Second Week in the Legislature

elainesmith
Elaine Smith Office Address
District 29 State Capitol
Committees: P.O. Box 83720
Business Boise, Idaho 83720-0081
Environment, Energy, & Technology (208) 332-1039
State Affairs esmith@house.idaho.gov

The 2015 Idaho legislative session has finished the second week of the Legislature and I am honored to be serving as District 29 State Representative. I have been assigned to the same three committees – State Affairs, Business, and Environment, Energy & Technology. Also, I am again serving on JLOC (Joint Legislative Oversight Committee) which had a meeting the first week for the evaluation report on the “Use of Salary Savings to Fund Employee Compensation.” The Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee of which I am a member, met two days in pre-session meetings. The committee did vote to support the Governor’s recommendation, but I was more optimistic in my projection for the revenue outlook than the Governor was.

During the first two to three weeks of the Legislature, we review rules of the state agencies. I have been hearing the rules of DEQ, Board of Accountancy, Division of Building Safety, and rules on Historic Horse Racing.

This coming week the House State Affairs will be holding hearings on amending the Human Rights Act beginning at 8 a.m. on January 26th. Remember if you can not attend, you can go to the website and listen to live streaming of any committee meeting.

In Caucus meeting yesterday I was informed that the House Health and Welfare committee will be having a presentation on the Governor’s Task Force on Medicaid Redesign report on February 4th. If you are interested in this issue, the meeting will be held that morning, so check on the exact time on the website.

I was able to attend President Obama’s speech at BSU this week. Idaho gave him a very warm reception. It was sad that more people could not get tickets to hear him in person.

I will be looking forward to hearing your opinion on legislative issues. You may contact me by e-mail at esmith@house.idaho.gov or 208-332-1031 or the toll free number is 1-800-626-0471. The legislative website is www.legislature.idaho.gov.

Week Two in the Capitol for the 2015 Session

roylacey
Roy Lacey Office Address
District 29 State Capitol
Committees: P.O. Box 83720
Finance Boise, Idaho 83720-0081
Health & Welfare (208) 332-1406
Transportation rlacey@senate.idaho.gov

We must be having fun in Boise because I can’t believe another week has passed already. This second week has been very busy both during the day and the activities scheduled “after-hours”, with my earliest time returning my (Boise) home being 8:30PM. The days are long, but the busyness of them makes them bearable.

Rules review tend to be taking all the time at this point, plus the Joint Finance Committee is on a fast pace so we can begin reviewing and setting the budgets for the State Agencies. While the review of rules can be tedious, there have been a few bright spots in my new Health and Welfare Committee assignment.

It is unfortunate that the House Agriculture committee rejected (again) the efforts of Ilah Hickman, an engaged young student who is trying to make the Giant Idaho Salamander the designated State Amphibian. The reasoning for rejecting this proposal does not make sense and will have the effect of discouraging young people from getting involved in the process of government. This young lady has tried for three years to get this piece of legislation off the ground only to meet with rejection (on the House side) every time. This measure did pass in the Senate last year. This young lady deserves better for her effort.

While we are all aware of the wage (earning) problem in Idaho, it is always difficult to listen to presentations that “make it real.” We were informed this week that 1 out of 3 Idahoan’s currently qualify for some type of State of Federal aid (not including the Insurance Exchange Subsidies). It is even more alarming when you consider that many of the people working for the State are among those qualifiers. It is embarrassing to know that a person working 40 hours a week cannot make enough money to meet the very basics of survival.

The use of Food Stamps (SNAP) and reliance on Indigent Care are indicators that Idaho has not recovered from the recession. The amount of families earning a livable wage has dropped over the last six years. We are still waiting for the recovery (at least that is what the numbers indicate) while the rest of the Country seems to be prospering. Idaho still leads the pack in the highest percentage of people making minimum wage.

Along these same lines, the presentation regarding the Catastrophic Fund expenditures for last year are still staggering. Expenditures in the State were just over $52.6 million and Bannock County’s share was over $948,000. These medical expenses are being paid by my and your tax dollars. This is not acceptable. However, it could have been more.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act and the Insurance Exchange, many of the cases have been able to be covered by insurance. So the numbers could have been worse. The presenter indicated that nearly 5,000 people who would have qualified in past years were referred to the Insurance Exchange. Many of those still qualifying would be insured if the Medicaid Redesign were implemented in Idaho. In addition to the extreme payout of funds for this service, the counties also experienced a $5 million administrative cost and $2 million in legal expenses.

Another interesting fact that is being brought out by many of our agencies is that treatment of Mental Health is rising quickly. This rise has been occurring since 2010 when the legislation passed which reduced the benefits that Idaho allowed under Medicaid. However, we are still paying for it out of our tax dollars— quite possibly at much higher rates than the maintenance programs were reduced by.

A bill that has passed the House and is coming our way is to require anyone considering to become a legislator to be a registered elector in the District where the current requirement is to be a resident. I guess this is a movement to get better voter turnout.

Highways and bridges continue to dominate the conversation; also, our dependence upon Federal Funding in the last few years. It is critical that something be done soon as the infrastructure is deteriorating and delays will result in greatly increased costs when bridges and highways begin to fail.

The President’s visit to Boise was a highlight of the week and the question that is still being circulated is “Why Idaho”? In any case, what matters it was a spotlight, highlighting Idaho to the world!

Please feel free to contact me rlacey@senate.idaho.gov or call at (208) 332-1406.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Week One in the Capitol for the 2015 Session

roylacey
Roy Lacey Office Address
District 29 State Capitol
Committees: P.O. Box 83720
Finance Boise, Idaho 83720-0081
Health & Welfare (208) 332-1406
Transportation rlacey@senate.idaho.gov

The work has begun in the Capitol for the 2015 Session in a fast a furious pace. My duties actually began last week with the meeting of the Economic Review Committee as we listened to so many economists from various areas of the State including Government, Business and Academia. Most were quite upbeat about the economy for the next two years. Two very long days, but at the end each of the committee members had a better feeling about forecasting the revenue for the next two years. This committee has recommended a revenue projection of $3,127,600,000.00 for fiscal year 2016 which begins in July 2015.

The big news for the week was the Governor’s State of the State presentation to the joint Senate and House on Monday. Many were a bit shocked about how bold he was with this speech as he talked about massive increases in Education, opened the door for discussion on the Transportation woes we have been experiencing and even talked about Medicaid Redesign. He did stick with his tax cut theory for the top wage earners, but we will need to determine if a tax cut is possible if we fund other areas.

While there was not as much press, on Tuesday, the Democratic Caucus issued their annual response to the Governor’s address. It is interesting that many of the positive subjects that the Governor has brought to light are the very things that Democrats have been working on for years.

  • Education investment and teacher appreciation
  • Better paying jobs
  • Fairness in taxation and in Government
  • Job development and workforce training

At the end of the Democratic response, there is a commitment to continue to bring ideas that benefit Idaho workers and families. “Working families in Idaho, Idaho Democrats are here for you. In everything we do we will have your interests at heart."

The mood of most of the legislators is upbeat as the economy has been steadily improving, gas prices are down and tax collections are still rising. As this is not an election year, it may be possible to get the ball rolling on fixing our roads, helping our schools and other items that have been seemingly overlooked in the past few years. It is time for Idaho to begin the process of rebuilding so we can once again be toward the middle of the States instead of dead or nearly last in every category.

We have received the several hundred page budget book which outlines the Governor and Agency proposals and from a brief review of the comparison, the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee will be doing yeoman work for the next three months. After holding off so long on replacements, employee compensation and other necessary aspects of Government, the requests are very large and may be necessary. One of the first hurdles we will be addressing is the Idaho Education Network (IEN) and the Governor has brought in former Senator John Goedde to help work through what the next steps will be to continue this service. The e-rate funds are still being held by the Federal Government due to the way the contract was awarded which was improper so we may need to continue funding it through the use of General Funds.

We also had a four hour Ethics Training which was very good and complete. Again, a smile comes on my face as it was the Democrats who were demanding Ethics a few years ago when so much was going on at the Capitol. As I have said many times the Dems just need to keep making the right noise and soon the majority party will think it is a good idea.

After much work the Add the Words legislation received a print hearing. This has been a long time coming and will, I understand, be given a full hearing in the next week or two.

The next week or two will be consumed going over Rules that have been written by the agencies to implement the laws we passed last year. Rules have the effect of law and it is our duty to insure that the rule that was written complies with the intent of the law. While this is a tedious process it is very necessary. Not my favorite time of the year, but it too shall pass.

I apologize about the lateness of this information, but due to some changes in the types of correspondence we are allowed, this is a new format for my weekly newsletter. Let me know what you think and if we can improve it to make it more palatable to you.

I am honored and humbled with the trust you have placed upon me to represent Pocatello in the Legislature. It is a great responsibility and I will always do my very best to represent you in manner that will make you proud. Remember that Idaho is stronger when families and business prosper together – and this is my goal.

Please feel free to contact me rlacey@senate.idaho.gov or call at (208) 332-1406.

Senator Roy Lacey

Monday, January 12, 2015

Dems to discuss social media tools on Wednesday

voting
Pocatello, ID - The Bannock County Democrats welcome Ann Swanson, the Interim Director of the Idaho Small Business Development Center, to speak to Bannock County residents about social media tools at their monthly Political Soup luncheon on Wednesday, January 14th.

This event will be held at our headquarters, located at 355 Yellowstone Ave., across the street from Mama Inez restaurant. Yummy food will be served between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.

Ann Swanson helps businesses sort through an overwhelming number of digital and Internet marketing options. She helps businesses leverage tools such as web sites, SEO, e-newsletters, mobile marketing, pay-per-click, and social media to create better relationships with their customers. Her career includes web development and marketing director at Portneuf Medical Center, Director of Marketing at ISU College of Business, and owning her own small business.

Political Soup is a great way to stay in touch with fellow Democrats in our area, as well as to pass around ideas and suggestions. We look forward to seeing you there! For more information about this event, please contact our organization at bannockdemocrats@gmail.com or call (208) 234-8908.